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The Importance of Sleep

Sleep problems in children are some of the most common problems that parents face. Sleep problems can lead to a disruption in daytime routines, irritability, and attention and behavior problems in school and anxiety and frustration for caregivers. It is important to help children develop good habits that last a lifetime.

Does your child…..

  • Seem to “crash” on some nights much earlier than their usual bedtime?
  • Seem overtired, cranky, irritable, or aggressive during the day?
  • Fall asleep in the car most of the time?
  • Do you have to wake your child up almost every morning?

There is no magic number of hours required by all children in a certain age group. Each child is an individual and has distinct sleep needs. Thinking about your child’s daytime behavior may help you to determine if he or she is getting enough quality sleep at night.

  • Newborns and infants up to 6 months of age generally need 16-18 hours of sleep equally divided between day and night.
  • From 6-12months of age babies typically nap 3 hours a day and sleep 9-11 hours at night.
  • Toddlers and preschoolers need 10-13 hours of sleep and a nap during the day.
  • School age children need 10-12 hours a night.
  • Teens need 8½ – 9 ½ hours of sleep.

In order to head off bedtime problems make sure to:

  • Keep a regular bedtime and stick to it.
  • Have time to wind down before bedtime (at least 30 min).
  • Keep a consistent routine including time to brush teeth, use the bathroom and bathe.
  • Limit the entire family to quiet activities to encourage sleep.
  • Have a comfortable place to sleep. It may be helpful to control the temperature, ventilation and have a nightlight.
  • Remove TV, video games, and computers from the bedroom.

To encourage good habits DON’T

  • Soothe a child to sleep by putting them to bed with a bottle of milk, juice or formula.
  • Fill up a child’s bed with toys. The bed should be a place to sleep rather than play.
  • Use sending your child to bed as threat or form of punishment. Bedtime should be secure and enjoyable.
  • Give food and drinks with caffeine before bedtime. It can disrupt their sleep cycle.

When your young child refuses to stay in bed:

  • Return your child to bed.
  • Remind the child to stay in bed until you return.
  • Tell the child that you will be back to check him or her.
  • Praise your child for staying in bed.

ALWAYS put babies to sleep on their backs to prevent the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome)

For further questions and recommendations consult your primary care provider.

Written by Dr. Dina Royal
On behalf of PAMPA

© 2011 Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.
PAMPA is a pediatric medical practice in north Atlanta, Georgia consisting of twelve pediatricians, five nurses,
and four locations in Roswell, Woodstock, Atlanta, and Marietta. area.
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